Residents of all four Plateau cities were probably delighted to see their property taxes fall in 2019.
On the King County side, Black Diamond residents saw their property taxes decrease nearly 10 percent on average, whereas Enumclaw residents found their taxes decreased around 7 percent on average.
And over in Pierce County, Buckley residents saw a 4.6 decrease in their taxes on average, and Bonney Lake saw an average 3 percent decrease.
The fall in property taxes is strongly related to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which required the state Legislature to fully fund basic education, said Al Dams, King County’s chief deputy assessor. The ruling required what’s been called a “levy swap,” meaning school districts can no longer tax their residents with their own Maintenance and Operations levies in exchange for receiving more money from the state.
However, it was also the McCleary decision that also caused property taxes to jump in 2018 in the first place, Dams continued.
“For that one year, the school districts were able to collect their full Maintenance and Operations levy… plus the state added the new ‘McCleary collection’ for the schools,” he said. “Those were collected at the same time at the higher rate. This year, the local school rate went down, and for the most part, accounts for the difference.”
But the difference doesn’t quite bring residents back to the 2017 tax rate, Dams added, at least for Enumclaw and Black Diamond. The average household in Enumclaw paid $2,966 in property taxes that year, compared to the $3,113 in 2019; in Black Diamond, the average home paid $3,518 in 2017, compared to $3,646 in 2019.
“It’s not back down to ’17 levels yet, but close,” Dams said.
The Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s Office was unable to provide The Courier-Herald with Buckley and Bonney Lake’s average 2017 property taxes by print deadline.
The other difference homeowners are seeing is that their property values are increasing, even though their taxes have shrunk.
The average home in Black Diamond rose from $353,000 in 2018 to $386,000 in 2019, and in Enumclaw, the average home rose from $273,000 to 304,000.
Over in Buckley, the average home value went from $289,000 to $317,000, and in Bonney Lake, from $345,000 to $380,000.
THE FUTURE OF McCLEARY
While the McCleary decision helped property rates drop in 2019, future legislation may increase property taxes.
At the moment, McCleary limits the amount school districts can collect from levies to $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value.
But Senate Bill 5313, which is currently in the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, would raise the amount school districts could collect from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The bill would also allow school districts who will receive less money from the state, due to the McCleary decision and the levy cap, to legally raise additional funds through levies needed for extracurricular activities, although this “hold-harmless provision” would only last one year in the bill’s current form.
It’s been reported SB 5313 will likely appear as a part of a proposed budget this week.
Emma Epperly of the WNPA News Bureau contributed to this report.